Prevention of Violence Against Women week a time to remind officials we’re in crisis, advocate says

An advocacy group is calling for urgent action to address violence against women, saying we’ve only seen an increase in killings since the start of the pandemic.

As many isolated and were forced to stay in their homes due to COVID-19, there was a rise in reports of domestic violence.

As we’ve come out of the health emergency, it doesn’t appear there have been improvements in B.C. or nationally.

National increase in killings of women, girls: BWSS

“There was a moment, just before 2020, when we were definitely noting some shifts that signalled some positive change. And, we look at the amounts of killings of women as one of the indicators of whether things are improving, and the killings of women in intimate partner relationships had trended downward,” explained Angela Marie MacDougall, executive director, Battered Women’s Support Services (BWSS).

“During 2020 up to present day, we have seen a 30 per cent increase in the numbers of killings of women and girls involving a male accused in Canada. And that is concerning. It tells us that things have gotten worse. This is what we seek to disrupt.”

With Prevention of Violence Against Women week set to begin on Sunday, April 14, a light is once again being shone on the issue, which many groups like BWSS, continue to fight to eliminate.

MacDougall says we don’t have to look far for recent examples of killings of women. In just a matter of weeks, three such incidents were reported around Vancouver — one in the Fraserview neighbourhood, one along Kingsway in East Vancouver, and another on the University Endowment Lands.

“That’s horrifying,” she said, adding the issue of violence against women isn’t being highlighted enough by officials and law enforcement.

“From a social, political, legal standpoint, we are recognizing that the killing of women — femicide — is a distinct crime that does require some consideration and recognition. So the question about whether things have gotten better, the statistics are telling us that it hasn’t. We have a lot of work to do.”

That work, she says, has begun, with provincial and federal action plans funded. However, MacDougall says, “we’re definitely not seeing the kind of action that we need to see” from governments.

“It’s just not happening,” she told CityNews.

“Organizations like ours are the ones that are on the frontline, both in the sense of providing services to survivors but also the frontline of the awareness and the advocacy and, you know, the social change. It would be nice, certainly, to have more government support for those efforts, to increase the funding to match the levels of demand to recognize that intimate partner violence is an epidemic here in British Columbia and that the killings of women, the fact that we’ve had three killings of women just in the past week, should alarm us all.”

MacDougall doesn’t refute that there have been changes, noting there is more awareness now than there was just a few years ago.

What hasn’t changed, she explains, is behaviours.

“Awareness is one thing, behaviour change is another thing. Unfortunately, so many of us, and our colleagues are all around the province, we’ve been just inundated with requests for service and the demand for service,” she said.

“We need a bigger investment, certainly from the municipal, provincial, and federal governments to fund services, to double or even triple that funding in order to meet the need. It’s high time that that happen. It’s still concerning that we have not seen that kind of level of investments in something that is one of the biggest social issues of our time.”

MacDougall says the spike in deaths since 2020 “is an indicator of a crisis” — one that she stresses needs to be recognized by all levels of government.

“Prevention of Violence Against Women week is a moment for us to point out what is still needed and to remind our elected officials what their responsibility is around public safety, and that the killing of women and girls is a serious public safety concern,” she added.

Prevention of Violence Against Women week, which runs from Sunday until Saturday, April 20, will feature a number of events across B.C. communities, including around Metro Vancouver.

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